Russia Update: Critics Sound Off About Igor Sechin’s Contract Extension and Compensation

May 6, 2015
Igor Sechin, president of Rosneft. Photo by Aleksei Nikolsky/RIA Novosti

The board of Rosneft has extended Igor Sechin’s contract for another five years and indicated his compensation may be as high as $11.7 million a year.

Welcome to our column, Russia Update, where we will be closely following day-to-day developments in Russia, including the Russian government’s foreign and domestic policies.

The previous issue is here.


Russia This Week:

What Happened to the Slow-Moving Coup?
Can We Be Satisfied with the Theory That Kadyrov Killed Nemtsov?
All the Strange Things Going On in Moscow
Remembering Boris Nemtsov, Insider and Outsider (1959-2015)

Special features:

With Cash and Conspiracy Theories, Russian Orthodox Philanthropist Malofeyev is Useful to the Kremlin
Alexey Navalny On the Murder of Boris Nemtsov
Theories about Possible Perpetrators of the Murder of Boris Nemtsov
Novaya Gazeta Releases Sensational Kremlin Memo

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At Least 65 Protesters Detained At Bolotnaya Anniversary Demo reports that at least 65 protesters have been arrested on Bolotnaya square in Moscow today at a demonstration in support of political prisoners held since the major anti-government protests there on May 6, 2012.

According to OVD-Info, a site that monitors violence by the state, the arrested included numerous opposition figures, amongst them: Aleksandr Ryklin, Sergei Sharov-Delone, Leonid Gozman, Semyon Zon-Zam, Mark Galperin, Pavel Kuznetsov, Aleksandr Makarov, Maria Ryabikova, Irina Kalmykova, Nikolai Glukhin, Valeriy Nadezhdin, Yelena Glushko, Aleksandr Eisman and Darya Kostromina.

The police also seized Sergei Posad civil activist Andrei Nepomnyaschiy, whose son, Ivan Nepomnyaschiy, is one of the new figures in the Bolotnaya case and has been placed under house arrest.

Twenty people on the picket line, more than a hundred supporters.
Third anniversary of the battle of Bolotnaya

Sergei Sharov-Delone holding a placard that reads: “I am a defender of Andrei Barabanov. I know that all of the Bolotnaya prisoners are innocent!”

Sergei Sharov-Delone detained after his solo picket.

OMON riot police on Bolotnaya square

It’s begun: “citizens, the protest has not been authorised.” They’ve taken away a solo picketer.

Yet another arrest.

On April 27, the Moscow mayoral office announced that the protest would not be allowed to go ahead on Bolotnaya square, rejecting an application made on April 22.

Aleksandr Ryklin, one of the organisers of the protest (who was among those detained), rejected the authorities’ suggestion that the protest be held on Marshal Vasilevsky street in the Schukino district to the north-west of the capital. reports that a number of protesters headed to Bolotnaya square from a nearby, authorised protest that was taking place at the same time outside the Tretyakov gallery.

Continuing calmly at the Tretyakov

Another group of around ten protesters blocked the Garden Ring road as they marched with a banner and flares, chanting “free the May 6 prisoners.”

— Pierre Vaux
German Court Overturns Ban on Russia’s Night Wolves Biker Gang

A German court has overturned the ban on Russia’s Night wolves gang, opening the door for the nationalist biker gang to enter Germany. Bloomberg reports:

The court ruled that two Russian citizens, who have valid visas issued by Italy for the European Union’s Schengen travel region, should be allowed to enter Germany because there’s no indication they pose a threat to public order or security. The court also rejected the argument that allowing them into Germany could harm the country’s relations with fellow EU and NATO member Poland, which has vowed not to let the bikers cross Polish soil.

As we have been reporting, the group of Russian bikers led by “the Surgeon,” Aleksandr Zaldostanov, have close ties with Vladimir Putin and are traveling through Europe to commemorate May 9, the day Germany surrendered to the Soviet Army (a day after having surrendered to the Allied Commander), marking the end of World War II. But their trip across Europe has been hotly contested since the group is so closely affiliated with Putin’s aggressive foreign policy, and since its leader is sanctioned by the European Union. Poland blocked the Night Wolves from entering, but now this ruling paves the way for at least some of the bikers to reach Germany.

James Miller

Provincial Russian Activists on Trial for Re-Posting Blog Entries in Support of Ukraine and Critical of Russia

Kseniya Kirillova, a reporter for Novye Regiony (, reports on two activists in Russian provincial cities prosecuted  for their support of Ukraine. In both cases, official analysis of texts by the Federal Security Service (FSB) is being presented in court on behalf of the prosecution. The defendants are charged not with their own works, but the re-posting of other bloggers on social media.

A criminal case has been opened up against Yekaterina Volgozheninova in Yekaterinburg on grounds of “extremism” for reposting several items posted in Ukrainian communities on Russia’s most popular social media network VKontakte.

A poem titled “Tale of a Russian-language Ukrainian” which ended with the words, “but Russians, Russians — know that we will not surrender! We will not give Ukraine to you” was characterized as “inciting hatred or enmity , or denigration of human dignity” under the extremism law.

Another item that was characterized as “extremist” was an anti-war and anti-imperialist article by Vladimir Shreydler which ended with the line “Death to Moscow occupiers!”

Volgozheninova pointed out that saying that Russians would not surrender hardly seemed to qualify as “hatred” of Russians and the FSB analysis of the post also apparently characterized Muscovites as an ethnic group.

A meme of a re-posted image of a man with a knife was characterized by the FSB as a picture of Putin that could be offensive, although Volgozheninova said the image did not look like Putin.

In a separate case, Anton Podchasov, a member of a district elections commission in Barnaul, has been sent for psychiatric evaluation at the request of prosecutor Svetlana Doronina under a court order April 30 after he re-posted a blog entry titled “Russophobias Post”  which in turn was written by a Barnaul opposition member, Andrei Teslenko, an RPR Parnas candidate in elections to the Altai Republic legislature, charged with “extremism”.

z8aHu4gNuMg.jpgAnton Podchasov holding a posting during a peace march. The sign says “No to Censorship!” and has a list of sites such as Alexey Navalny’s LiveJournal blog blocked by the Russian censor. Some Russian 404 pages have pictures of a goat.

Podchasov made the post in February 2014 on VKontakte, and was charged with “public calls for extremist activity” under Art. 280-1 and “actions aimed at incitement of hatred, enmity or denigration of dignity of a group of persons on grounds of race, ethnicity, committed publicly” under Art. 281, part 1 of the Russian Criminal Code.

The post contains the term rusnya which is considered pejorative regarding ethnic Russians. Podchasov said in his defense that the post should be viewed in the context of the annexation of the Crimea which was done by the Russian state, not the Russian people.

The prosecutor replied that a person on trial with a technical education cannot make linguistic and historical interpretations of texts, although ironically, the fact of her own lack of an education in literature and history apparently was not pertinent. The prosecutor also revealed her bias by concluding in court:

“On my own behalf I would like to add regarding the Crimea: Russian blood has been shed there on every square centimeter! To say that Russia is the aggressor and base yourself on that position — of course, I consider that blasphemy, among other things regarding the history of our country.

Podchasov also said that as a member of the elections commission, he had asked to see a voting list to determine if there were any fake names, and received it only after three times, after which he concluded there were no fabrications.

Thus, his own blog posts and request for the voters’ list, which is lawful under Altai Territorial law on elections, were grounds for sending him for psychiatric evaluation scheduled for May 7.

— Catherine A. Fitzpatrick

Russian Tugboat with 12 Sailors Marooned in China Due to Debts
A Russian tugboat with 12 sailors who haven’t received their pay for several months has been held in a Chinese port due to debts the leasor of the ship owes, RIA Novosti reported, citing Pyotr Osichansky, head of the Center for Investigation of Marine Incidents at the Nevelsky State Marine University.

Osichansky said the crew had gotten in touch with him (translation by The Interpreter):

The tugboat is detained for debts, apparently for the repair of the ship in the port of Ningde in the south of China. According to the crew, they have not received their wages since December, and they are sitting without money. There is concern about the fact that many of the sailors are already over 50 years old, and some of them need medications. Futhermore, the fuel is running  out in the ship, that is, soon they will not be able to prepare hot food.

He said the ship owner was in Nakhodka, but the debts are the responsibility of the leasor. If he is unable to pay them, then the tugboat and the Russian crew will wind up abandoned in China. The procedure to get the sailors back to their homeland might take time.

The complication is that China is not a member of the International Association of Trade Unions. And while we are in contact with Chinese trade unions, the likelihood of receiving help along those lines is slim. Most likely a legal path must be taken. The relatives of the sailors have already appealed to the Far East Transportation Prosecutor’s Office and will await help.

The prosecutor had no comment yet, said RIA Novosti.

— Catherine A. Fitzpatrick

Russian Critics Sound Off About Contract Extension and Compensation for Rosneft’s Sechin

Russian opposition leaders and some of the Twitter parody accounts of government
leaders have sounded off on the news that oligarch Igor Sechin has
extended his contract another give years as president of Rosneft, and will officially be earning as much as $11.7
million or more.

As we reported, despite a pledge not to reveal his salary, Rosneft has given the general parameters of his monthly compensation as “15-20 million rubles” or approximately $297,000 to $396,000, plus a bonus of up to 150% of his annual salary, which would put him at $11.7 million, evidently less than in past years.

Translation: Good News: Igor Ivanovich Sechin has obtained the Muscovite social card and now he can travel for free on public transport.

Translation: When Igor Sechin was a schoolboy, he was particularly good at math problems with intervals – from 15 to 20 million.

Translation: The salary of [Apple’s Tim] Cook,  head of
the most successful company in the world, was about $9 million in 2014.
The salary of Sechin, head of the loss-making Rosneft was about $15
million for 2014.

Even before Rosneft’s announcement, some critics were noting the huge losses Rosneft has had but the government’s continued granting of loans.

Alfred Kokh
a deputy prime minister under Yeltsin and former owner of
Gazprom-Media, was particularly scathing, in a Facebook post also
appreciated by anti-corruption blogger Alexei Navalny.

Translation: A good post by Kokh about Sechin. It’s all true, Sechin is an enemy of Russia.

The Interpreter has translated Kokh’s post:

At first this sweetheart staged a worldwide disgrace for the
country with the case of Khodorkovsky and Yukos, and in the end got a
sentence for a $50 billion (fifty!) fine.

for some reason he bought TNK-BP for $52 billion right on the even of a
sharp drop in oil prices. Why he bought it — there is still no answer
to that question to this day; apparently Fridman and Col.  could drag
away this company with its oil fields…The company grew extractions,
paid taxes…What changed for the country due to the fact that Rosneft
began to own it is not clear. However, loands for the purchase of TNK-BP
were an overburden for Rosneft.

And now, due to this monstrous
credit burden, Rosneft cannot infest in shelf projects to a sufficient
extent and asks for an extension on the basis of the fact that ice has
suddenly been discovered in the Arctic…You don’t know whether to laugh
or cry.

And now the Government once again recommends appointing as head of
Rosneft this man, Igor Ivanovich Sechin, who has brought damage to
Russia comparable to the effects of World War II, deliberately, on the
eve of the 70th anniversary of the Victory…

These people look for enemies of Russia! But you haven’t looked in the mirror for a long time, eh, Igoryok?

health system is in a shambles, the schools are in a shambles, science
is dying. And this persona blew a minimum (!) one and a half hundred
yards of green of government money (12% of Russia’s GDP or 100% of the
GDP of countries like Belarus or Slovakia) – and it’s all brand new.
With the highest salary of an oil man in the world…

A reader then commented that this was not all; Sechin also expects the government to provide loans for multiple projects totalling as much as 1.3 trillion rubles (about $26 billion) out of the National Welfare Fund by June 1st, or else Rosneft will be unable to drill in fields for which it had received licenses in state tenders. Earlier we reported that just one of the projects for which Sechin seeks funding is $1.6 billion.

— Catherine A. Fitzpatrick

Sechin’s Term as President of Rosneft Extended; Compensation May Be $11.7 Million a Year

The monthly compensation of Igor Sechin, president of Rosneft, may be 15-20 million rubles (approximately $297,000 to $396,000),  RIA Novosti reported, citing a corporate standard for salaries for top executives.

He is also eligible for an annual bonus that is 150% of his salary.

The board of directors of Rosneft established Sechin’s monthly salary as “closer to the lower plank” indicated in the document, Mikhail Leontyev, Rosneft press secretary told RIA Novosti. The decision was dictated by the “difficult situation” which the company has found itself in and the need to economize.

Top managers can also receive bonuses for completion of significant projects.

The revelation came despite a ruling from the Kremlin earlier this month that indicated Sechin would not have to reveal his compensation.

By only giving the general parameters for his basic salary, the company has not revealed his total compensation.

Rosneft is extending Sechin’s term of president another five years. He has served as president since May 2012, with a contract for 3 years. In June 2014, the company decided to extend the terms of presidents from three to five years.

The announcement comes after speculation that Sechin was going to be removed from his post, in connection with a reported power struggle in the Kremlin.

The New York Times reported Sechin’s net worth as “roughly $169 million” and his salary in 2013 “$50 million”, considerably more than the upper salary range of $4.7 million a year  indicated by RIA Novosti. Even with the 150% bonus of $7 million, Sechin would then in theory earn only $11.7 million a year.

Sechin personally as well as the company Rosneft are under Western sanctions for their role in the annexation of the Crimea.

— Catherine A. Fitzpatrick